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Woman, 5-year-old granddaughter die after South Shore fire

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Updated: May 5, 2013 2:51PM

Alonzo Dorsey was working Wednesday morning when he got a panicked call he’ll never forget.

His 5-year-old granddaughter and wife of 23 years were killed in a fire in their South Shore neighborhood apartment, his son told him.

Family members identified the victims as Suzette Dorsey, 42, and Alana Dorsey.

Police said the girl had apparently been playing with a lighter around 10 a.m. The open flame ignited “some cloth material” in a bedroom, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said.

The fire engulfed the third-story apartment in the 2000 block of East 79th Street. Black smoke billowed from the two-bedroom apartment, with the fire cracking windows. Suzette and Alana were overcome by smoke and were in cardiac arrest when they were rushed to area hospitals, fire officials said.

Suzette Dorsey was taken to Jackson Park Hospital, where she soon died. Her granddaughter was carried out in the arms of a fireman and died at an area hospital.

Alonzo Dorsey said he and his wife had lived in the apartment for just a few months. He described his wife as caring and very outgoing, and his granddaughter as “fun loving, loved to play games.”

“She loved school,” Alonzo Dorsey said. “She would just play every game, “Sesame Street,” learning games.”

Tonya Brooks was riding the No. 79 CTA bus just a block away when she noticed the smoke billowing from the three-story apartment building and panicked. She was worried that her 72-year-old mother was inside and ran to the building only to learn that her mother was fine but her neighbors had been killed.

“They were really, really nice people,” Brooks, 53, said. “I spoke with the lady all the time.”

Brooks said Suzette Dorsey had suffered health setbacks but was always in good spirits. Brooks often saw her and her granddaughter in the hallway outside her apartment.

Officials said there were no smoke detectors in the Dorseys’ apartment. Brooks said the building’s owner had regularly checked the dual smoke and carbon monoxide detector in her apartment.

The building’s owner declined to comment Wednesday.

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